Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guest post

Here's my first guest post - From Harriet. A couple of book reviews and some helpful ideas.
1. The most helpful book I read was called "The Ministry of Women in the Church - Which Way Forward" by Ward Powers (former NT and Greek lecturer at SMBC, also a linguist!). He starts with a broad picture of how radically counter-cultural Jesus' and Paul's attitudes to women were, then goes through all of the relevant NT passages in detail. I found his discussion of 1 Timothy 2 particularly helpful. He points out:

a. The text could faithfully be translated 'a wife' and 'a husband'
b. Most translations add it the heading 'Instructions on Worship' (NIV) etc. but there is no evidence that the context is public worship. In fact, the references to prayer 'in every place' (v8), modest dress (vv9-10), Adam and Eve (vv13-15) and childbearing (v15) all suggest that the context is actually the one flesh marriage relationship in the home.
c. The text bears remarkable similarities to 1 Peter 3, where the same words are translated as 'wife', 'husband' and 'quietness' rather than 'a woman', 'a man' and 'silence'.

2. There is also a good discussion on this in John Stott's book, "Issues Facing Christians Today". I tend to follow the guidelines he formulates for whether or not I should preach in a particular context:

a. Do I believe I am gifted to preach?
b. Am I adequately trained to preach?
c. Am I faithfully teaching the apostolic gospel, as recorded in Scripture?
d. Am I in willing submssion to the senior minister? Has he invited me to preach? Is he happy with the content of my sermon?
e. Am I in willing submission to my husband? Am I showing respect for him in the way I preach?
f. Am I preaching in humility and not seeking glory for myself?
g. Do I have the consent of the congregation to preach?

For these reasons, I preach in the morning services, but not in the evening service. There are some people in the evening service who would not be comfortable to have a woman preach.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The difficulty of 1 Tim 2:11-15

Talking with Graham Cole the other day, he gave me some new words with which to think about 1 Tim 2 - here are some:
Enthymemic: An argument which doesn't state the assumption.
1 Timothy 2 is an enthymemic argument in that the reason that vv13-15 are relevant to what he has said in vv11-12 are left unstated. Why does Paul say "for Adam was formed first, then Eve"? Why does he talk about Eve being deceived? Why does he talk about being saved through childbearing? And what does all this have to do with women teaching men?
All that is left (frustratingly!) unstated.
The problem (for us) with enthymemic statements, is that they can be very persuasive, and they can persuade people to believe an unstated premise which is not true, more easily than if the premise were stated.
Some more terms which I learned from Cole which are helpful in my thinking
Creation Order and Analogical.
These describe two of the main schools of interpretation on this text, which give meaning to the unstated premise.
1. Creation Order
I used to think that this was the only way to think about this text. My understanding is, that this is the argument which says "Paul cites an example from creation so this applies for all time...".
The reason "for Adam was formed first, then Eve" is relevant, is because it refers to primogeniture. The practise of the first born son having the rights and authority. So, this argument claims that Paul is saying that since Adam was born before Eve he is endorsing Adam having the authority over Eve, and by implication men over women.
But what about "for Eve was deceived" how is this relevant?
Proponents of this view, in my conversations and reading, seem to be very keen to say that it is not women's inferior intelligence or lack of gifting or skill which is being discussed here (though some do). They claim that male authority is simply God's good intention for creation, no matter how much we understand it or not. I'm not sure really how they explain vv 13-14. Can anyone enlighten me?
2. Analogical
I first came across this argument a few weeks ago in this paper (found on this page).
This argument says that the reason that all of vv 13-15 is relevant is because it is summarising the Genesis passages (Gen 2 til the start of 4). Why does Paul want to summarise these passages of scripture? Because it is analogous to what was happening in the Ephesian church at the time.
You'll notice, reading through Ephesians that it is largely about teaching. In chapter 1 Paul tells the men to stop teaching, in chapter 2 he tells the women to stop teaching, and in the final chapters he's putting in a place a system of leadership which will teach the correct doctrine. The people in the Ephesian church should only listen to Paul, Timothy, and the elders of whom Timothy approves because they are teaching sound doctrine.
How might this situation be analogous to Genesis? The women might have been deceived about the correct teaching. At the time it was rare in Jewish circles for women to be trained in the scriptures.
Women were less likely to be literate than men, were trained in philosophy far less often than men, were trained in *rhetoric almost never, and in Judaism were far less likely to be educated in the *law. Given the bias against instructing women in the law, it is Paul's advocacy of their learning the law, not his recognition that they started as novices and so had to learn quietly, that was radical and countercultural. The IVP Bible Background Commentary
This gives credence to the idea that both women and men were teaching, but women were relatively more deceived, at that time, as to the true gospel.
Given women's lack of training in the Scriptures, the heresy spreading in the Ephesian *churches through ignorant teachers (1:4-7), and the false teachers' exploitation of these women's lack of knowledge to spread their errors (5:13; 2 Tim 3:6), Paul's prohibition here makes good sense. His short-range solution is that these women should not teach; his long-range solution is "let them learn" (2:11). The situation might be different after the women had been instructed (2:11; cf. Rom 16:1-4, 7; Phil 4:2-3).  The IVP Bible Background Commentary
How do we know that Eve was deceived? She told something to the serpent which was not true - that God had said that she may not even touch the tree or she would die. Adam who was with her at the time, was led astray by Eve, even though he knew the truth.
The analogy with the Ephesian church is that women were teaching and leading men astray by their teaching, so Paul was instructing them to stop teaching, and instead to learn.
If we see vv 13-15 as a summary, we can see a point which Paul might have been making - that God judges those who disobey God, both those who lead others astray, and those who go along with it.
If we see 13-15 as a summary the reference to childbearing also makes more sense - at the start of Gen 4 Eve, though childbearing has been cursed, she still safely gives birth to a son. The allusion to this by Paul is a statement of God's grace - that he has cursed one of woman's primary functions, but still God is present with her in that suffering and saves her through it. Though women (and men!) in the Ephesian church have led other's astray - led them to disobey God as did Eve - there is still grace in the midst of judgement for them.
In verse 15 there is a switch from the singular language of verses 11-15a ("he" and "she", "a woman" and "a man" * ) to the plural "if they remain in faith, in love and holiness with propriety". I wonder if these are the conditions of the grace which Paul has referred to in the previous verses... one question is who are the "they" it is referring to. I think it's most likely referring to Adam and Eve, in the context of the analogy, and therefore to both the men and women in the Ephesian church.
Here's one question I had with the "analogical" argument:
The analogical argument implies that the real meaning of "gar" at the start of v 13, is more like, in English, "it's the same as the situation where..." I wondered whether there was any other use in Paul's writings of the use of "gar" to obviously introduce an analogy. I didn't have to look far... 1 Tim 5:17-18 is a clear analogy linked by "gar".
In summary, I'm much more convinced by the analogical argument than the creation order argument. It seems to explain more about the text in question, and fits in better in context with the entire letter.
It's interesting to note that both of these views are represented side-by-side in some study bibles, but not all.
* Many English Bible versions translate these verses in the plural (eg. NIV, NLT, CEV), and I think this is a mistranslation which hides, instead of reveals, the meaning.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Just within the church context?

For a while I've been uneasy about the position that there is a restriction on women teaching men, and that this restriction only applies in a church context. But I haven't been able to pinpoint what it is. Here's an attempt.
The argument goes that "Paul was writing to a church" therefore it applies only to the church context, and that he cites the example from creation, therefore it applies in ALL church contexts.
Is there any other command which applies in all church contexts and doesn't apply outside the church context?  At the moment I can't think of any.
If we take the previous verses 1 Tim 2:8-10 ("I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God.") The application from these verses are not restricted to a church context. Women should dress modestly inside and outside the church, men should pray without anger and arguing inside and outside the church..
Seems to me that the people who hold that Paul was restriction women teaching men in all churches but only in church contexts are using a different hermeneutic than for the other verses here where Paul gives instruction for behaviour. Surely if Paul's reason for citing an example from the creation story is to show that it should apply for all time - surely it applies in all areas of life as well. It women not teaching men is God's good plan for creation, shouldn't we be doing that outside as well as inside the church?
I'm not convinced at all that Paul was intending to restict all women teaching men in the church context and only in the church context.
I think that the debates that we sometimes have over whether it is permissable for a woman to teach mixed audiences based on whether the gathering is a "church" or not (Is bible college a church? Is a convention a church? Is a Christian school a church?), are discussions based on a misreading of the text.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What are our positions?

People in Sydney take many different positions on this issue - here is my attempt to clarify what they are, in decreasing order of "restriction". If I have missed out a position, let me know and I'll add it.

Practical positions which people hold in Sydney:
1. Women may not have authority over men in any circumstance.

2. Women may not have authority over men in a church context
This has many different interpretations:
Women may not lead a church or congregation, but may preach.
Women may not preach regularly, but may preach occasionally.
Women may not preach, but may lead the service.
Women may not lead a service but may lead the singing/worship time.
Women may not lead worship, but may lead a mixed bible study.
Women may not lead a bible study, but may co-lead with a male leader.
Women may not co-lead a bible study, but may lead a youth group.
Women may not lead a youth group, but may lead Sunday school... etc
And there are many variations on the above applications.

3. Women may lead men, but wives are in submission to husbands. This can in some way extend into the church context. (In practise this can look like any of the options given in point two.)

4. Women and men are equal in terms of authority, and there is no restiction based on gender. Women are given positions of authority based on gifting and accceptability for the task (as are men).
When I thought about it some more, I realised that the first position also has many questions of practice (similar to the second). If women are not to have authority over men in secular contexts as well then is it OK to vote for a female politician? Is it Ok for a woman to give directions to a man if he is lost? Is it Ok for a woman to be a teacher in adult education? ...etc. These are questions which are legitimately being asked by evangelicals who hold that women mustn't have authority over men in any circumstance.

Are there any other positions to add?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Moving forwards

In the last week I've been making some progress in crystalysing my thoughts on this issue. I'll be posting them in the coming days. I feel that I'm starting to lean in a particular direction and that it is a biblically faithful interpretation.
Very exciting!